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Bear column: Got cabin fever? Take a hike!

By now it should be obvious that the cries of “charge” in the battle on coronavirus have quickly turned to, “run away, run away!” That’s right, we’ve all come to realize that to step up, we need to take two steps back.

If the dystopian-looking masks and wary eyes of my fellow shoppers at City Market are any indication, prudence has become the hot new trend for the ’20s.

Not everyone is averse to social distancing though. For introverts like me — this is our moment! We’ve fortuitously trained our entire lives to thrive during a global pandemic. Six feet? Heck, let’s make it 10!

The governor’s “safer for homebodies” order has many of us working from home, which seemed great at first, until the reality of prolonged isolation set in. I’m not at the Jack Torrance stage of cabin fever yet, but even we introverts have our limits.

I’ve heard a lot of friends over the years say their goal was to work from home, but frankly, I never understood the appeal. Something about the phrase, “work from home” bothers me. When you break it down it becomes obvious: Work. Home. Home. Work. Homework?

Like every other school kid in… well probably the entire history of school kids, I hated homework. Then I unwittingly decided to try writing as a profession. I probably didn’t think that one through well enough because writing professionally is like having homework every day for the rest of your life.

But I have to admit that working from home has a few advantages over the office: I can horde all the coffee, eat anything in the refrigerator, and I’m making a case for day pajamas becoming the new formal.

The biggest decision I make during my day is whether to hunker down in the bedroom office, set up shop in the basement, or take my laptop out on the deck. That’s a double-edged sword, though, because all those spaces that were primarily used for sleeping, eating or entertainment now have a work component, which tends to suck the joy from them.

When my wife Nina and I first moved to the Roaring Fork Valley, we lived in a studio apartment one floor up from the Aspen Daily News office where I worked. After 20 years of long commutes every day in the Denver metro area, I was pretty psyched about having a commute with only 12 stairs. But what I discovered is that when your home and office are located in the same building, the line between them blurs until they start to feel like the same, claustrophobic space that you can’t wait to escape from.

I sensed even before coronavirus that our modern world was gradually making us homebound. Technology has made it so we never have to leave the house anymore. Amazon does all our shopping, students are homeschooling, and if you aren’t working from home yet, you probably will be soon.

I imagine a Jetsonesque future where our homes contain an earning pod, an entertainment pod, a learning pod, a nourishment pod, an elimination pod and a rejuvenation pod.

But that would be a shame.

We humans tend to wither when we’re trapped indoors — sitting for hours hunched over an electronic screen, or Netflix and chlling on the sofa. It’s not a healthy lifestyle for our bodies or minds.

Most of the people I know in the Roaring Fork Valley have a deep love for the outdoors, a connection to nature, and a sense of adventure. Here in the West we have big, wide-open spaces to roam. Social distancing isn’t a new concept here; it’s been our way of life for a long time.

But the governor’s order limits outdoor recreating to within 10 miles of home, which might as well be house arrest to me. I live in Carbondale, so what difference does it make if I drive to Red Hill for a hike, or drive to Aspen or Glenwood Canyon for a hike?

I realize that this global pandemic is new to everybody, and we’re all still trying to figure out how to deal with it. But it seems to me that our government officials should be encouraging people to engage in more safe, outdoor activities, if for no other reason than our mental health.

I’d like nothing better than to see everyone getting outside to walk, hike, run, bike, raft, fish, fly a kite, have a picnic, or simply lay in the sun and breathe. The days are getting warmer, a sweet smell is in the air, and a fresh optimism, like the cool spring runoff, is flowing through the valley.

Jeff Bear is a reporter and copy editor for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. You can reach him at jbear@postindependent.com.


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